Programme for Government: Humza Yousaf offers a welcome change of tone about economic growth – Sandy Begbie, Scottish Financial Enterprise

Scotland’s financial services industry is key to attracting overseas investments that can drive greater economic growth

Achieving sustainable, inclusive, economic growth is vital if we are to create more of the high-wage, high-skill jobs our country desperately needs to raise living standards and properly fund public services. There is no doubt there’s a lot more work to be done in this area, but yesterday’s Programme for Government appeared to indicate a change in tone, if not yet substance.

Alongside other support for green industry, it was welcome to see the Scottish Government endorse proposals by Sir Tom Hunter to reduce corporation tax from 25 to 15 per cent in key sectors such as renewable energy, although this is a long-term play and needs to be a genuine commitment, which would require improved cooperation with the UK Government.

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Meanwhile, an expansion of childcare provision could help improve Scotland’s stubbornly low productivity and increase workforce participation. Elsewhere, an emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, supported by Scotland’s world-renowned finance industry, was also key. But now is the time to act and support Scotland’s existing key industries, such as finance, tourism, and food and drink, to help deliver the economic growth we need at pace.

That is why Scottish Financial Enterprise is this week launching a major new effort to drive international investment in Scotland’s financial and professional services sector. Attracting overseas investors is crucial to delivering growth and we hope this latest campaign – ‘From Scotland to the World’ – will help boost our industry here at home. The initiative will highlight the strength, innovation and depth of Scotland’s 300-year-old financial services sector, our highly skilled workforce, and the high-living standards and low-cost base on offer to businesses investing here.

Of course, as an internationally renowned industry with a proud history, the Scottish financial services sector is already enjoying notable successes in attracting foreign capital. Major recent investments in the sector include Barclays’ new campus and JP Morgan’s new technology base in Glasgow, while BlackRock recently announced plans to grow its headcount in Edinburgh.

Taken together, these significant commitments from major international companies represent a ringing endorsement of Scotland’s financial services industry. Attracting this investment and growth also has a real impact on Scotland’s economy, supporting thousands of jobs directly, investing in local communities and contributing to the wider business ecosystem.

These investments are exactly what we need to encourage if we are to meet the government’s stated desire of greater economic growth as outlined in the Programme for Government, and I know ministers will be keen to support Scottish Financial Enterprise’s latest efforts in this area.

A reduction in corporation tax on key sectors such as renewable energy would be a welcome move (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)A reduction in corporation tax on key sectors such as renewable energy would be a welcome move (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)
A reduction in corporation tax on key sectors such as renewable energy would be a welcome move (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

By encouraging new investment from abroad, we can build on the already strong economic foundations of financial services in Scotland. According to a new report by industry body TheCityUK published this week, Scotland’s financial and professional services industry is the single biggest net contributor to Scotland’s economy, worth £14.3 billion a year, while also being one of the country’s biggest employers. In Edinburgh, it makes up almost 30 per cent of the local economy and employs 13 per cent of its workforce.

That’s already a huge contribution, but by attracting further investment, the industry’s contribution across the length and breadth of the country can be even more significant, and together we can begin to deliver the sustainable, inclusive economic growth Scotland needs.

Sandy Begbie is chief executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise



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